HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Royal Project Foundation brings light to remote villages

It’s time to make your new krathongs

Engineers to dredge Ping River to ease flooding

Land Transport open for services on Saturday

Chiang Mai officials building world’s largest Khom Loy

New anti-smoking law in full effect

Swedish Scouts to celebrate Xmas in Chiang Mai

East Timor President visits Chiang Mai

Stone laying ceremony performed for Meditation and Ayuverdhic Center for the North

TRF helping communities find solutions to social and economic problems

Local TV show being broadcast on iTv

Economic indicators showing progress

TV documentary sparks elephant torture debate in the North

Elephant sperm bank a possibility

U.S. donates B. 47 million to fight human trafficking in Thailand

Royal Project Foundation brings light to remote villages

Hill tribe farmers get electricity for the first time

Metinee Chaikuna

Thanks to the Royal Project Foundation, as of November 6 the remote villages of Pha Morn and Nong Lom in Tambon Chorm Thong, Chiang Mai now have electricity for the first time.

In Karen dress, HRH Prince Bhisadej Rajanee (seated center), presided over the opening ceremony to bring electricity to the remote Pha Morn and Nong Lom villages in Tambon Chorm Thong, Chiang Mai.

HRH Prince Bhisadej Rajanee, director of the Royal Project Foundation, presided over the opening ceremony to supply the hill tribe farmers and their families with electric power.

The research station at the Doi Inthanon Royal Project oversees the 119 residences in Pha Morn and 73 residences in Nong Lom villages. The villagers are Karen hill tribesmen who mostly work as farmers, and both villages are located within the Inthanon National Park Royal Project.

The villagers first began the process of requesting electricity last March, when they asked the Inthanon National Park Royal Project to run power into their villages. After receiving their request, the Royal Project cooperated with the Provincial Electricity Authority in Chormthong and set aside a budget of 3,976,224 baht.

Tribal elders performed a traditional ritual to welcome HRH Prince Bhisadej Rajanee.

On November 6, the villagers’ dream became a reality and they can now look forward to the many conveniences having electricity can provide.

At the opening ceremony, a representative from the Provincial Electricity Authority was present to give a speech. Shortly after, representatives of both villages delivered thank you addresses, and seniors of the villages performed a traditional ritual to welcome HRH the Prince.

It’s time to make your new krathongs

Yi Peng Festival (Loy Krathong) November 16-20

It’s time once again to create your yearly biodegradable masterpieces, as the Yi Peng Festival (Loy Krathong) is already underway, and will continue through November 20.

This year’s festivities promise to be as fun-filled as ever (but hopefully without too many rogue firecrackers). Activities will be held throughout the region, and official activities in town will be mostly centered around the Thapae Gate grounds, the Chiang Mai Municipality grounds, and around the Chiang Mai City’s moats.

A table of northern events outside Chiang Mai appears on page 5, whilst a listing of events within Chiang Mai appears on page 13.

This morning (Saturday, November 16), a Buddhist ceremony was held at Wat Lok Moli to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Her Majesty the Queen’s birth, and the 50th anniversary of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn.

The official opening ceremony of the festival will be held on Monday, November 18 from 6 p.m. - 9 p.m. at Thapae Gate grounds. Activities will be taking place all over the city, including a Noppamas Kids’ Contest (for the wonderful children who sit in the big Krathong for their beauty contest), many shows at Thapae Gate, the Yipeng Lantern Contest on Chang Klan Road, and other interesting activities at the Municipality Office grounds and Ping River banks.

Each year, krathongs decorated with flowers and candles on the river remind us of the Lord Buddha and pay respect to the goddess of the river.

Engineers to dredge Ping River to ease flooding

Aim to be completed by March next year

Metinee Chaikuna

A 31 km stretch of the Ping River from Mae Rim District to Saraphi District, Chiang Mai has been earmarked for dredging to help ease future flooding. Sukhin Ratasathien, chief of Chiang Mai Marine Regional Office, Chiang Mai Branch said that the Ping River project was high priority because of flood problems in the rainy season and the drought problems in summer. Many of these problems stem from the fact that the Ping River is too shallow, and full of small islands and weeds.

The project will start from the area of Don Kaew, Mae Rim District, and end up in the area of Khua Moong, Saraphi District, Chiang Mai. The riverbed is sand, mud, and hard soil, and the dredging will produce a channel 20 meters wide and 2.50 meters deep going under 16 bridges, and incorporating 4 reservoirs.

The project will increase the ability to dam the water, as well as facilitating drainage so that it can help relieve flood problems. Engineers plan to compete the project by March 31 next year.

Land Transport open for services on Saturday

Extended opening hours for the Provincial Transport Office a popular move

The Chiang Mai Land Transport Offices in Tambon Nonghoi, Chang Puek, Mae Hia, and Arcade Transport Centers will be open on the first Saturday of each month, starting from December 7 this year. According to Atsathai Rattanadilok na Phuket, head of Chiang Mai Provincial Transport Office, the Fang, Chormthong and Mae Taeng Transport Office will also have the same hours.

Beginning on September 2 this year office hours were extended to 7 a.m. - 6 p.m., which has been very popular with the residents who need to carry out business there. With now the Saturday opening, the Provincial Land Transport Office is pleased to accommodate those people who find it difficult to come on the weekdays to now come on Saturday. If there are other problems, the office can be contacted at 053 278 625.

Chiang Mai officials building world’s largest Khom Loy

Guinness Book of Records - or just a lot of hot air?

Phitsanu Thepthong

Each year thousands of Chiang Mai’s famous paper hot air balloons, known as Khom Loy, are released during Loy Krathong. This year, Chiang Mai municipality is going to release the world’s largest Khom Loy, a hoped for Guinness Book of Records event, on November 19 at 10 a.m. in front of the municipality office near the Ping River western bank.

Each year thousands of Khom Loy are released, taking a year’s worth of bad luck with them, during the Loy Krathong/Yi Peng Festival in Chiang Ma. This year officials hope to get into the Guinness Book of World Records by creating the largest ever Khom Loy.

This special balloon will be 10 meters in diameter and will use 22,000 sheets of paper in its construction, according to the Chiang Mai Mayor Boonlert Buranupakorn. Normally about 72 sheets of paper are used for making a Khom Loy. Bamboo is being used as the structural framework. To fill the balloon to make it “air-worthy” municipality technicians estimate it will take around one hour.

Mayor Boonlert said this hot-air balloon is traditionally organized during the Yi Peng Festival and it is a local belief that you get rid of bad luck by floating it into the air. The giant hot-air balloon will be a highlight of the Loy Krathong Festival, according to the mayor.

The Chiang Mai mayor also said that residents and tourists should remember that there are many interesting activities during Loy Krathong, or as it is known here, the Yi Peng Festival, running from November 18-20, from processions along Chiang Mai’s main roads, with at least 50 giant krathong floats in the parade, 10,000 small krathongs will be released into the Ping River, together with light and sound presentations, Miss Noppamas beauty contests, rafting, and boat racing.

Loy Krathong, or Yi Peng, is celebrated each year during the full moon of November to celebrate the end of the rainy season, and to welcome the winter season.

New anti-smoking law in full effect

A man enjoys his breakfast at a noodle shop next a no-smoking sign on Friday, Nov. 8. The new anti-smoking law came into effect last Friday, making it illegal to light up in virtually every indoor public place including air-conditioned restaurants and barbershops. Business establishments that fail to control smoking by patrons will face fines of up to 20,000 baht and the smokers will be hit for 2,000 baht. (AP photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Swedish Scouts to celebrate Xmas in Chiang Mai

Plan to do much community work while here

Supatatt Dangkrueng

The Swedish Consulate has announced that 406 Swedish Scouts will be visiting Chiang Mai December 20-26 this year for a cultural exchange before going to join in the 20th World Scout Jamboree in Chonburi Province.

The Swedish Scouts will visit the tourist attractions in Chiang Mai and participate in activities with Thai youths. The consulate in Chiang Mai will cooperate with student volunteers from Chiang Mai University, Payap University and Rajabhat Institute in Chiang Mai to facilitate communication with the Swedish Scouts.

The program includes plans to visit and carry out community activities December 24-25 in the rural villages in the districts of Chiang Dao, Doi Saket, Sa Moeng, Doi Tao, Mae On, Hod in Chiang Mai, the district of Pa Sang in Lamphun and the district of Wiang Pa Pao in Chiang Rai.

The activities include repainting playground equipment and experiencing the rural environment and lifestyles.

On December 26 in cooperation with the Mae Ping Club (Ping River Enthusiasts) they will clean up the Ping River while others will do social activities with the scouts from the Prince Royal College, Monfort College, Sacred Heart College and the youths from Suan Dok Public School.

The highlight of the Swedish Scouts’ visit is on the 24th December (Christmas’ Eve) when they will celebrate and sing Christmas carols at the Tha Pae Gate with other tourists and the Swedish people in Chiang Mai.

After Chiang Mai they will join the International Scout Camp in Chonburi December 28 to January 8.

East Timor President visits Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai officials roll out the welcome mat

Phitsanu Thepthong

East Timor President Xanana Gusmao was last week the guest of the Thai government, and during his stay here he spent two days (November 8-9) in the North.

President Xanana Gusmao (left) was greeted by Chiang Mai Governor Pisit Katephasuk (right), and other high-ranking officials upon the president’s arrival at Chiang Mai International Airport.

East Timor President Xanana Gusmao releases a khom loy (paper hot-air balloon) at Le Grand Lanna.

During his official visit to Chiang Mai he visited the One Tambon - One Product project, a saa mulberry paper factory and the saa paper project in San Kamphaeng District, and Huay Hong Krai Royally Initiated Project in Doi Saket District.

In the evening of the first day of his visit, the visiting president was treated to a dinner reception by Governor Pisit Katephasuk at the Dara Dhevi Hotel.

Stone laying ceremony performed for Meditation and Ayuverdhic Center for the North

Santipawan Project underway

The foundation stone laying ceremony for the Santipawan Project has been carried out in Mae Rim District, Chiang Mai. Phra Buddhiyan, the Lord Abbot of a Chiang Mai temple led the Buddhist ceremony, while Governor Pisit Katephasuk presided over the stone laying ceremony.

The goal of the Santipawan Project is to provide a meditation and spiritual center in the north. The benefactor of the project is the Foundation For the Age of Enlightenment, founded by renowned meditating ascetic Dr. Puttacharun.

According to project planners, the Santipawan Project will be an academic center providing education for children and a place for practical religious precepts free of charge.

The center will stand on 15.5 rai of land, donated by the Chutima family, beside the Mae Rim - Sa Moeng Road in Mae Rim District, Chiang Mai.

Dr. Puttacharun has been known locally as an ascetic who can perform flying meditation. He decided to build a center for meditation, ayuverdhic medicine, astrology, Thai medicine, and provide an academic center for foreign languages and computer studies. Dr. Puttacharun expects that the center will be ready to register its first students within 3 to 5 months.

TRF helping communities find solutions to social and economic problems

To hold community empowerment conference this month

Nuttanee Thaveephol

The Thailand Research Fund (TRF), Regional Office will arrange its 2nd Conference on Research to Empower Communities from November 28-29 at the Chiang Mai Phucome Hotel.

There will be six main issues covered: sustainable development, eco-tourism, youth and family, education and communities, community management and health promotion. All are real problems occurring in the communities, which the local people themselves have tried to find solutions for by using local research.

Dr. Sin Sarobol, the coordinator of the TRF regional office said that the economic crisis in the last 5 years has had a severe impact on local communities, so the TRF has created projects to encourage local people to brainstorm and find solutions to problems by themselves.

The TRF is expecting that this 2nd conference might be the new dimension for the research field, and the TRF will hold an exhibition to display local commodities and products coming out of this research.

Local TV show being broadcast on iTv

Supatatt Dangkrueng

The Operation Blessing Foundation (Thai) in Chiang Mai has a new program titled “From Heart To Heart” shown every Sunday 6.00-6.30 in the morning on iTv. The program aims to encourage people to live a happy life and is presented by MCs Toon Hiranyasub and Suchiwa Insuwan, well known for their sense of humor.

“It is created and produced by our team in Chiang Mai, and we hope to get support from Chiang Mai people to follow our program,” said Patsaraporn Suwannapheng from the creative department of CBN Siam.

The foundation is also involved with giving advice and sharing experiences. Everyone is welcome to participate. For more information, telephone 053 242 010, 1800 532 402 or send mail to 4/5 Fl. 11, Nawarat Building, Kaew Nawarat Road, Soi 3, Tambon Watkate, Muang, Chiang Mai 50000.

Of course, if you miss the TV program you can always turn to the Chiangmai Mail’s Heart to Heart column on page 8 with our own lovely Hillary!

Economic indicators showing progress

Industry up, tourism down

Chuchart Leesuwan and Nuttanee Thaveephol

The economic and financial status of the northern region during the first 9 months of this year has shown good progress in the production and expenditure sectors, but tourism has slowed because of the terrorism threats. The findings come from figures released by the Bank of Thailand’s Academic Division Northern Region Office.

The figures showed that the industrial sector enjoyed an increase in domestic consumption and export. The agricultural production value increased at the same time, along with revenue from agricultural products, giving farmers higher incomes this year.

The consumption of goods in the private sector has expanded as well as export and investment, with construction being substantially better. Government expenditure also increased, despite a slowdown at the end of the fiscal budget.

The flood damaged rice crop during the last 3 months has not had much effect on the Northern economy; however, tourism is tending to slow down. Ruangvit Saveckomet, the senior executive of the economic division of the Bank of Thailand’s Northern Region Office said that tourism related businesses have shown a decline in revenue when compared with last year because of the effect of global terrorism, Thai-Burmese border tension and the World Cup tournament diverting tourists from the region.

TV documentary sparks elephant torture debate in the North

Metinee Chaikuna

Following the television documentary ‘Tee Nee Prathet Thai’ (Here is Thailand), televised via Channel 5 on October 28, the issue of elephant abuse became a hot topic. The program showed a videotape of the ritual of separating an elephant from its child. For many viewers, this appeared to be cruel and barbaric, with the mother elephant being pulled in one direction and the baby elephant being manipulated by the mahout using the spiked hook.

Elephant parks are a big tourist attraction in the north.

Elephants and mahouts form bonds “like a dog loves its owner,” Satien Jaikum said

After the video was aired, many organizations involved in elephant care could not agree as to whether this was a factual account, with some even going so far as to claim that it had been set up solely for TV sensationalism.

Wassana Chailert, the owner of Mae Taeng Elephant Park said that the ceremony of separating an elephant mother from her child is a ritual done by Karen mahouts, which has been carried out for more than 100 years. This ceremony is called ‘Pha Jarn’ which means to separate. She said the ‘Pha Jarn’ ritual is done for a variety of reasons, including maturing the elephant so that it would stand on its own feet rather than just following its mother, or merely that it was time to train the baby for its working life, or even that the elephant would not breed again until the previous baby had “left home”.

Panthong, the manager of Mae Taeng Elephant Park pointed out that even wild elephants in the jungle would chase away their own offspring so they would become self reliant as they grew up. “The Pha Jarn ritual is a necessary rite of the Karen peoples. Every elephant calf will need to pass this rite before it is trained to work. This kind of ritual is similar to us sending our children to school for the first time. Many children cry, and try to run after their parents. Elephants are the same,” said Panthong.

Satien Jaikum, elephant owner and mahout at Mae Taeng Elephant Park, said that the Pha Jarn ritual serves a vital purpose in young elephants’ lives.

Elephants seem to enjoy performing for the audience.

Satien Jaikum, an elephant owner and a mahout at the Mae Taeng Elephant Park who is familiar with the Pha Jarn ceremony said that it would normally be carried out by the time the elephant baby was 4 years old, or grown up enough to begin training for work, and in any case would be done after weaning, normally around the age of 3 years.

The actual ceremony involves much ritual and is carried out under the instruction of the master of the ritual called ‘Phor Krue’. The ritual can be performed on any day except Wednesday, which is their Buddhist day of worship. The ceremony begins in the morning, and involves wrapping the elephant in a long “robe”. The elephant’s mahout must stay with the baby for the next week, 24 hours a day without washing, to allow his scent to be imprinted into the elephant’s mind.

Much of the ceremony belongs to the ancient beliefs of animism, including magic spells and incantations to assist the baby towards maturity, and the mother towards accepting the fact that her baby must go its own way. The ceremony itself lasts three days, and during that period the owner of elephant is not allowed to pound rice, and women are not permitted to approach in any way. At the end of the ceremony, the baby elephant is given its new name, which it will keep for the rest of its life.

“After the third day when the elephant can fend for itself and not follow its mother, the baby is untied and its mahout trains and practices with it so the elephant will be with the mahout most of the time. During this time the elephant would become the friend of the mahout, and would gradually love the mahout just like a dog loves its owner,” said Satien.

Meanwhile, Chalermsak Suranant, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand Northern Office Region 1 commented that the recent TV program on the Pha Jarn ceremony has had no affect on tourism to this region. According to Chalermsak, tourist numbers are increasing this year.

Chalermsak said, “It (the TV program) is not a big issue. People like to make it into a big thing but it’s not.” He also said that he does not think that Pha Jarn is elephant torture, as it is just a ritual which local folk have done for many years.

Elephant sperm bank a possibility

Hope for childless eligible elephant couples

Metinee Chaikuna

The Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang, the National Elephant Institute, and the veterinarians of Kasetsart University have perfected the technology of deep-freezing elephant sperm. The research team has found that after thawing out the frozen sperm, viability and motility was still in the region of 40-50%. Repeat experiments have confirmed the results, and it is considered that they are the first team in the world that has been successful in keeping deep frozen elephant sperm.

Archan Nikorn Thongtip, a lecturer of Veterinary Medicine at Kasetsart University, announced that a group of scientists have perfected the technology of deep-freezing elephant sperm as part of a pioneering project to help save the endangered species worldwide.

The team began the experiment two years ago, collecting samples of elephant sperm at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center. The team tried to find a method to freeze the sperm by using techniques applied in other animal species; however, the methods were not successful.

Artificial insemination of elephants has been researched by a team led by Dr. Thomas Hildeblant of IZW (Institute of Berlin’s Zoo biology and Wildlife Research). The current method requires fresh elephant sperm, taken within 24 hours and used on a female elephant in its fertile phase. If this is unsuccessful, it takes another 16 to 18 weeks before the female ovulates again, and then the male sperm has to be recollected. For this reason, research has been applied to methods of keeping sperm in a deep frozen condition.

Veterinary specialists collect the elephant semen as part of a pioneering project to help save the endangered species worldwide. Elephant sperm can be kept in a liquid nitrogen tank for 10 years. In the future, there might be a sperm bank for research and studying Thai elephant genetics. It also will help in reducing the expense of artificial fertilization. Dr. Thomas’ team charges US$50,000, currently considered as relatively cheap.

U.S. donates B. 47 million to fight human trafficking in Thailand

Mrs. Kathleen F. Johnson, wife of the Ambassador of the United States of America Darryl N. Johnson, visited the Protection and Occupational Development Center, or “Baan Kredtrakarn,” and announced that the U.S. government is providing new assistance worth US$1.1 million (47 million baht) to aid the Thai government in its ongoing efforts to fight the trafficking of people (TIP).

After a tour of Baan Kredtrakarn, Mrs. Johnson said that the U.S. government’s assistance to Thailand related to human trafficking will go to the following groups and projects in Thailand: NGOs that provide direct assistance to trafficking victims, including legal aid; to build a multi-disciplinary team in Chiang Mai consisting of the Department of Social Development and Welfare social workers, prosecutors, police, and NGOs officials; the Department of Social Development and Welfare to provide shelter for women and children rescued from brothels in the Chiang Mai area; to develop new laws that counter trafficking; and to law enforcement in Bangkok to provide a national unit dedicated to addressing the problem.

About 40,000-50,000 trafficking victims, mostly women and children, are brought to the U.S. each year. Southeast Asia is the biggest single source region for this flow of human slavery.

In October this year, the U.S. Congress requested the U.S. Department of State to report annually on the measures that other governments are taking to fight human trafficking. Countries are ranked in three tiers, depending on the extent of government efforts to implement prosecution, protection, and prevention measures. Last year, Thailand was ranked in Tier 2 in recognition of its efforts to protect victims and to implement measures that prevent trafficking.

Beginning in 2003, as a result of the report, some countries will face congressionally mandated suspensions of U.S. assistance. Such suspensions will affect countries with a significant number of trafficking victims whose governments are not making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with the minimum standards outlined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. The Act relates principally to the prosecution of traffickers, protection of victims, and prevention of trafficking. The next annual Trafficking in Persons Report will be released in June 2003.

The financial assistance announced this week will support the efforts of the Royal Thai Government and NGOs to build capacity in the areas of law enforcement, victim protection, and prevention.